Five minutes with Lexi Airey, Gateway Bank

31 Aug 2022

Our Green Star Homes supporting partner Gateway Bank might be small but when compared to other banks, it's different. Gateway Bank is one of Australia's leading customer owned banks and all its profits go straight back to supporting those customers. In the latest addition to our Green Star Homes unpacked series, we speak to Lexi Airey, Gateway Bank's Chief Executive Officer, to learn more about what makes this bank stand out from the rest.

1. Gateway's Green Plus Home Loan was recently awarded with Mozo's expert choice award for green home loans - congratulations! How is Gateway supporting customers to reduce their impact on the environment?

We’ve observed in most sectors consumers are being charged a premium for the environmentally friendly option, whether that be at the supermarket or buying clothes. At Gateway we’ve developed what we call our Pocket and Planet purpose. We want to help customers reduce their impact on the environment and help them be better off financially when doing so. So, for us banking shouldn’t cost the earth.

To support that we’ve launched a range of products such as the Green Plus Home Loan as well as a second Green Home Loan offering both of which offer discounted rates for making your home more energy efficient and reducing its impact on the environment.

We also launched our Eco Personal Loan which offers our lowest personal rate for people wanting to invest in energy efficient projects for their homes such as solar, insulation, double glazing or battery storage.

We are also very proud to have been the first Australian bank to offer our customers an environmentally friendly debit card made from plant-based materials. Our Eco Debit Card is made from plant- based materials such as corn-starch and contains no PVC. Production of the card uses 65% less energy than a traditional bank card and produces 68% fewer greenhouse gases, degrades 20 times faster than a PVC card and contains no toxins.

These are just the start and we’re continuing to look at other options to help our customers reduce their impact on the environment and go greener faster while saving them money.

2. Gateway commissioned some research recently into consumer awareness around green home loans. What were the key findings?

Our research found that green home loans remain relatively unknown in the Australian market. Only 8% of those surveyed claimed to know about them, while 14% of people told us they had heard of them but had very little knowledge about them. Nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents said they had not heard of them, and the balance were unsure.

The low awareness is not entirely surprising as the product remains relatively new to the market and only offered by a small range of lenders. However, we found that when customers understood what the product was for and how it worked they were receptive and pleasingly the younger cohort saw a green home loan as having some prestige attached to it. This is encouraging as this group begin to purchase their first homes and move into the property market.

3. The 2022 election results were confirmation that Australians are wanting action on climate change. Where do you hope to see this awareness in the next 5-10 years?

The awareness will only grow. People are already living with the reality of the effects of climate change. According to the Australia Institute Climate of the Nation 2021 report - 75% of Australians are concerned about climate change, the highest level of concern since Climate of the Nation began tracking. The intensity of concern has also increased, reaching record high levels of those who are ‘very’ concerned about climate change (40%). Gateway are seeing more potential customers inquire about Gateway’s ethical lending and investment policies.

4. Green finance is crucial to the delivery of sustainable homes at scale. Why is it important for Gateway to partner with organisations like Green Building Council of Australia?

However, as you can see from our research green finance remains relatively unknown in the broader market. We see partnering with aligned  organisations like the Green Building Council of Australia as vital to building awareness and consideration of the entire sustainable homes supply chain and helping educate consumers about the benefits to both their Pocket and Planet to shift the way Australians build and buy their homes.

5. Finally, we understand Gateway was founded in 1955. What can you tell us about those early years?

Gateway was established as a credit union for Commonwealth Bank staff who were seeking an unsecured loan. In those days the Commonwealth Bank had restrictions on lending to its staff so we were established to meet that customer need. While much has changed over the past 55 years, and we’ve evolved from the Commonwealth Bank Officers’ Association to Gateway Bank still have very strong links to our past and have members of the bank that we among the founding members back in 1955.

Green Building Council of Australia is proud to have Gateway Bank on board as a Future Homes supporting partner. You can learn more about how Gateway Bank is helping Australians create sustainable homes here.